Oil drilling rig halts off Cyprus after Turkish warships near

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Cyprus oil drilling platform

FILE In this photo taken on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017 children play on a beach with a drilling platform seen in the background, on the outskirts of Larnaca port, in the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias/File)

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus’ foreign minister says a rig belonging to the Italian energy firm ENI has halted its journey in the Mediterranean Sea after encountering Turkish warships.

Ioannis Kasoulides told state broadcaster RIK on Saturday that the rig, which was to start exploratory drilling off the eastern Mediterranean island, is waiting for directions from ENI. He says Cyprus authorities are in contact with the company and the Italian government.

The rig was on its way to drill an exploratory well southeast of the island when it encountered the Turkish warships on manoeuvers.

On Thursday, Cyprus said ENI and partner TOTAL of France had discovered a potentially sizeable gas deposit south of the island.

Turkey opposes the drilling, saying it flouts the rights of the breakaway Turkish Cypriots to ethnically-split Cyprus’ natural resources.

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